April 03, 2020
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Veer Patriot

One may accept him or completely reject his views but to denigrate him would be like 'Stalinising' the pluralistic spirit of the nation.

Veer Patriot
A rebel and a non-conformist, Veer Savarkar was an ideal for the Indian youth, who could refuse to bow before the British empire and forfeit his barristership in return. He shook the Empire so strongly that, writhing in pain, it awarded him a double life sentence. In kala pani, he was the "most dangerous prisoner" and meted out the harshest "punishments". He was subjected to solitary confinement for six months, seven days of standing handcuffs and was also made to drive an oil mill. Still, he not only stopped the forcible conversions of Hindu prisoners to Islam but also ended the practice of untouchability. He was the first Indian leader to give a call for swadeshi, the first to start militant revolutionary activities in London, the first to rekindle a sense of pride among the Indians by declaring that the 1857 Mutiny was in fact India’s first war of independence, and the first to get his books proscribed by two foreign governments even before their publication. A scholar par excellence, he enriched the Marathi language and reformed it.

As an ardent follower of Shivaji, Savarkar wanted to die in action. Finding this the only way out, he wrote six letters to the British pleading for his release. All his ‘requests’ were rejected outright. Home secretary Richard Craddock met him in the Andamans on November 16, 1913, and in his report to the Viceroy on December 19, wrote, "Savarkar’s petition is one for mercy. He cannot be said to express any regrets or repentance....in the case of Savarkar it is quite impossible to give him any liberty here."

It is significant to note what Gandhi said about him in Bombay in the first week of May 1921: "He is brave. He is clever. He is a patriot. He was frankly a revolutionary. The evil in its present form of the present system of government he saw much earlier than I did." Savarkar’s failing health, and the Congressmen’s relentless efforts for his release made the British send him to Ratnagiri in 1921. His extreme position on various issues didn’t earn him mass acceptability in a predominantly Hindu society, reluctant to support such postures. Gandhi, on the other hand, became more acceptable to the masses because of his Vaishnav persona and his all-encompassing message. Savarkar differed with Gandhi like many others and became a suspect following his assassination. The court acquitted him but the denigration still continues. The only reason behind this vilification campaign being his ideology of Hindutva.

Savarkar stands brilliant among his own class like a shining lonely star. One may accept him or completely reject his views but to denigrate him would be like ‘Stalinising’ the pluralistic spirit of the nation.

(Tarun Vijay is the editor of the RSS mouthpiece Panchajanya. He can be contacted at tarunvijay@vsnl.com.)

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